17 November 2008

The Civil Rights Battle of Our Generation

In 1964, South Carolina repealed a law forbidding adoption by mixed-race couples. In 1967, the US Supreme Court struck down laws still on the books in some states against inter-marriage between people of different races. (More details here, in an article by Andrew Morrison in the Harvard BlackLetter Law Journal.)

The week before last, same-sex marriage was outlawed by popular vote in Florida, Arizona and, of all places, California; Arkansans voted in a law designed to keep same-sex couples from adopting children.

Sound familiar? But backwards?

How about Germany ca. 1935, when the Nazis outlawed marriage between "Aryans" and Jews? My mother has her parents' marriage licence from the late 1930s: it requires the applicants, her parents, to list the names of all their grandparents to prove their ancestry.

Waaaaay back in March 2000, Bob Jones University -- a Protestant fundamentalist college in South Carolina -- got around to getting rid of a school rule forbidding interracial dating after W (Bush 43) was criticized for campaigning there. This month, fundraising by the Mormon Church was instrumental in passage of the California law.

I see a commonality here. Conservative Christians fought against integration, fought against interracial marriage, fought against desegregation of schools... and they're still claiming their prejudices are supported by the Bible and trying to legislate their religious beliefs.

Forty years after the death of Martin Luther King, Jr., the US elected an African-American president. Will it take another forty years for Americans to recognize that gay men and lesbians are also fully human?